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Philadelphia Eagles, This is Your Time

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I have two words to say to the NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles, and I’ll happily repeat them again if it will further motivate them on Super Bowl Sunday.

 

I’m sorry.

 

I’m apologizing for several reasons.

 

Let’s start with Doug Pederson.Photo: americancenturychampionship.com

 

I, like many, was not at all thrilled with his hiring. Maybe not on a Mike Lombardi level, but I wasn’t exactly doing cartwheels in the streets, either.

 

Pederson’s only previous head coaching experience was at the high school level. Moreover, when you had Pat Shurmur, Tom Coughlin and several other established names in contention for that job, it appeared that Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman only wanted a company man that towed the line in the midst of the Chip Kelly debacle and nothing more. A “speak when spoken to and don’t ruffle any feathers” approach would be a relief from the atmosphere Kelly created in his less than harmonious three-year tenure in the city.

 

Nonetheless, whether that was Lurie and/or Roseman’s basic intention or not (I still feel it was), a funny thing happened on the way to a 13-3 regular season record and the team’s first Super Bowl appearance in 13 years.

 

For a time, it looked like the Pederson detractors were right. There were some growing pains in 2016, but after a rough loss to the Bengals when he openly criticized the mentality of some of his players, things started to turn around. Pederson now has them believing in his vision and in themselves—possibly more so than any coach in Eagles history. Keep in mind this includes a list of names such as Dick Vermeil, Buddy Ryan and Andy Reid—coaches who all achieved success in this city and were loved by the majority of their players.

 

While discord among defense and offense is far from uncommon in the league, this team seems to genuinely like each other. The camaraderie is great to see, and it makes the fans want to root for them even more. Hey, it worked for the Broad Street Bullies. It was them against the world when they faced off against another unseemingly unbeatable sports team from Boston standing in the way of their first championship.

 

Sound familiar?   

 

Unlike his mentor, Reid, Pederson has shown the ability to adjust during games—especially after Week 2 against the Chiefs, when the running game was literally abandoned. Can you see Reid adjusting or changing the course of any game plan on the fly? Ever? Not a chance. Sure, this Eagles team has several weapons, all used effectively by Pederson this season, which makes them difficult to stop. There have been NFL coaches equipped with more talent who've accomplished less than what Pederson has done with this team.Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie

 

Speaking of management, I really could care less that they are reaping the rewards of the Eagles’ success. Last fall, I went on record and said this team would never win anything as long as Lurie and Roseman were the ones making decisions in the front office.

 

After all, this is the same organization that unceremoniously dropped broadcasting legend Dan Baker after 29 years, then honored him in between time outs of a game, only to usher him off the field with a chintzy gift (think Mike Quick and the empty golf bag) because they needed to start a dog frisbee show. Yes, that was done to arguably the most professional and nicest broadcaster Philadelphia has ever seen.  

 

While I'm at it, did you see the Eagles fan on the news Sunday who arrived at Lincoln Financial Field at 5am in hopes of getting last-minute tickets? Well, that guy (along with yours truly) was still there at 3pm, when security finally came out to tell all of us that there would be no tickets released. I was only there for about 50 minutes, but you would think someone (even an entry level page boy, perhaps?) would be nice enough to go out there and spare that guy some serious time. I won’t even get into hoagiegate or pressgate, but I digress. Long story short, I’m rooting for the players to win this thing, not the suits.  

 

Speaking of the players…..

 

When the year began, most “experts” predicted the Birds to win roughly nine games with an outside shot at the NFC East title. Week after week, however, this Eagles team came ready to play, and it took a long time for many of us to put our finger on what kind of season this was really going to be. Were they playing over their heads? Was Carson Wentz that good? Were they dominating teams because of lackluster competition? Many of us held our collective breath waiting for the Birds to come back to earth.

 

It never happened. As it turns out, when you combine solid play with an inspirational group who believes in each other (as well as the coach) and throw in a few breaks along the way, you have yourselves a contending team with the best record in the league. Slowly but surely, fans became more and more convinced that this might not be your typical Eagles team that would break your heart year after year.

 

Naturally, as always, paranoia set in that this team was too good to be true. They were probably just one Terrell Owens ankle injury away from everything falling apart.

 

Then, like clockwork, lightning struck.

 

Like some in the Delaware Valley and beyond, I didn’t think this team had a hope in ‘you know what’ of advancing past the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs after Carson Wentz suffered his injury. Yes, more than one player constitutes a team. That being said, Wentz was a front runner for MVP of the league. Add his injury to a list including Darren Sproles, Jason Peters, Chris Maragos and Jordan Hicks (you can even throw in Caleb Sturgis) and even the most objective, rational thinkers who don’t drink the Kool Aid would probably think it’s all way too much to overcome. Right?

 

Not so fast.

 

Enter Nick Foles….again.Nick Foles

 

In fairness, Foles hasn’t consistently played in the regular season for a number of years, and it was hard to be convinced that he was the same player who led Chip Kelly’s 2013 squad to the playoffs. Furthermore, Foles’ recent performances in the weeks leading up to the playoffs did absolutely nothing to calm people’s concerns.

 

For what seemed like the umpteenth time this season, however, the Eagles defied the odds. Foles finally found his groove in the second half of last week’s game against the Falcons and he’s never looked back. The team took that momentum into the NFC Championship Game against the Vikings, and here we are.

 

Yes, here we are.

 

I think you can say now that whatever happens from this point on, it has truly been a season for the ages. Nobody can argue it is easily one of the greatest, unexpected special years in the history of Philadelphia sports. The 2017 Eagles have now joined the ranks of the 1993 Phillies, 2001 Sixers and 2010 Flyers. While those teams are remembered fondly by the Philly faithful for their memorable playoff runs, however, the Eagles clearly don’t want to stay in the company of those teams.

 

Despite my dreary outlook after the Wentz injury, I still watched almost every minute of every Eagles game. A lifelong fan doesn’t jump ship. That being said, my expectations were realistic at best going into the NFC Divisional Game. Based on their recent collective play (which, mind you, were mostly victories), one and done was honestly all I could see on the horizon. I briefly even had visions of Nate Sudfeld dancing in my head. Once again, however, this Eagles team showed they have plenty of football left in them, and that no obstacle has been too large to overcome. The positive vibe I had prior to Wentz’s injury soon returned. Yes, it took me until the second half of the Falcons game, but I was reeled in again.

 

As a Philly fan, it’s almost blasphemous to say, think, or God forbid, put in print or mention this out loud, but here it is:

 

This is our year, and I’m 100% in.

 

This team, perhaps like no other team in the existence of our city, has convinced me they’re going to get the job done on Super Bowl Sunday.

 

Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, celebrates second place better than Philadelphia. This has to end. If I hear one more former player showing off their conference championship ring or National League Championship ring, and all the fans start oohing and ahhing about it, I’m gonna lose it. Yes, it’s embedded in local culture to expect second best, because nobody wants to get their hopes up and our teams usually come up short. In two weeks, this article might seem like a piece of garbage, but I feel this year is different. It’s okay to embrace the underdog role and still act like your team deserves to be there, because they do.

 

The 1980 and 2004 Eagles Super Bowl squads were more talented, but the mindset of this current Eagles Super Bowl team is a loose and confident one. They take no team lightly. Be that as it may, they will probably have to play their best game of the year to take down Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the Evil Empire known as the New England Patriots.

 

You can't put into words what the magnitude of this victory would mean for Philadelphia. The Birds FINALLY raising a Lombardi Trophy would be sweet revenge for their previous Super Bowl matchup with New England—a matchup you can't help but feel they should have won; for several reasons. In another classic, Philadelphia twist, how ironic would it be that the one year nobody expects the Eagles to win it all, is the year they actually win it all—and with Foles as your quarterback.

 

The biggest celebration the city has ever seen would ensue. It would make the previous Super Bowl losses and NFC Championship Game defeats seem a little more distant, it would certainly make the Fog Bowl seem less foggy, and all the Natty Ice consumed at every tailgating event over the last 30-plus years would be replaced by the taste of the best premium lager money can buy.

Photo: businessinsider.comThis can happen.

To close it out, I could easily quote Big Red, and use Steve Olenski’s tagline at the end of every TMA he’s ever written for P2P and simply say “Time’s yours.”

Or, we could turn the page, and I could paraphrase the speech Herb Brooks gave to the 1980 Men's US Olympic hockey team. Yeah, let's do that one.

 

 

This is your time. Their time is done. It's over. I'm sick and tired of hearing about what a great football team the Patriots have. Screw 'em. This is your time. Now go out there and take it!"

 

See you in two weeks.

 

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

 

 

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Pederson photo: americancenturychampionship.com